As a gamer, I spend many hours playing a whole variety of different games. I spend time looking for bargains and games that are a bit different from normal. This is where this games collection comes in. When I first saw it advertised on Steam I looked it up online to see what the reviewers were saying and I decided it was worth a go.
The games were developed by Taleworlds and released by Paradox Interactive. The collection contains the 3 editions of the game so far. It has the original Mount and Blade, Mount and Blade: Warband and Mount and Blade: With Fire and Sword. I actually played these games in the order they were released and have been very impressed.
The games are described as "sandbox" games, which basically means that they are freeform and that you can go wherever you want. In essence, they are set in a mediaeval world and are a single-player first person role playing game. In the first 2 you play the part of a warrior who is seeking their fortune and wants to gain renown in the fictional realm of Calradia. The third is set slightly later and takes its name from the historical novel it is based on.
In each game you start in a very basic position. You have the opportunity to travel around and do pretty much what you want. There are quests you can undertake from any of the rulers of the lands and they can give you extra renown, cash or even demesne's to bring you more money. However, there is little or no linear plot in the first 2. Therefore you are free to wander around, change sides, carve out your own territory and cause chaos through the land. In the third one there is an on-going plot thread for each of the nations. Once you choose to serve one you are caught up in that plot, though you are not required to carry out all of the missions with any form of haste.
So, how do the games play? Essentially you move around the world by clicking on the spot you want to get to. You can zoom out the map to click on distant locations and you will head there. Now, this can become a little repetitive and travelling long distances is my least favourite part of the game. However, it is only a minor niggle. Whilst you can watch your progress on the zoomed out map it is advisable to be watchful as waiting bands of enemies can ambush you otherwise.
You can visit towns, castles or villages to buy supplies, recruit new soldiers and get new equipment. One of the good things about this game is that you have to keep your troops supplied with food to or they will desert. Different varieties of foods will increase your troops' morale. As you gain in experience and renown you can have a larger party of troops, which can make it possible to undertake more difficult tasks.
What I love about the game is the combat. Whilst it can be a little repetitive the real fun is that you control the weapons by your actions. Movements of the mouse control which way you swing your weapon and you can use your shield to block. In addition you can control missile weapons to take down your enemies from distance. The third instalment introduces firearms and there you have the complication of having to have a reload time before reusing them. Great fun in the thick of a fight when having multiple enemies bearing down on you! Always advisable to carry spare weapons for those close encounters.
As your character progresses, you get better at things and can do more damage to your foes. This can lead to you storming or defending castles, entering tournaments or even fighting against seemingly hopeless odds with some chance of winning. The other thing I really like is that you can tailor your skills to suit your own style of play. You can choose to be a better rider, one-handed weapon user, trainer of men, tracker, healer for instance and many other skills are available to round out your character. As you advance, so too do your companions and even your troops. They start out as basic peasant types and can upgrade to be much more effective and make your army a much tougher proposition than mere numbers may suggest.
Graphically, the games are quite basic. It is definitely quite a chunky and clunky style of graphics, which does make the game look more dated than it actually is. However, for those who prefer substance over style this is not a big problem, as the game play is what makes it.
In essence, this is an extremely fun set of games. Each one can be played independently, though Warband gives a few extra features and tweaks that enrich the game play thus meaning that I probably wouldn't have bothered to play with the original one after I played with this. In fact, it really is more like an improved version of the original game than a stand alone sequel. This game has expanded the options available and added a multiplayer feature, where you can log onto servers and fight battles with large numbers of people (up to 250,) though this is not a feature I have made much use of, preferring the role-play elements. With Fire and Sword is also good upgrade based on the same engine as Warband and offers enough difference to keep it interesting.
I do love these games but have to be honest and say some people will not like it, as there can be a lot of repetition in locations, quests and dialogue, as well as the low-end graphics. However, when I looked at my Steam library, I realised I had played these games for a total of 300 hours between them (mainly the latter 2) and I had not seen any of those negatives as detracting from my enjoyment of the game. In fact, I am inspired to play some more of it after finishing this review!
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys the longer game. The fighting is so much better than most other sword fighting games of its type, as what you do actually matters - you are not just clicking buttons randomly. The DVD set is currently available from Amazon at £7.48, which I would heartily recommend over Steam buying, as there each game is sold separately at a higher price totalling around £33! They do have sales on there, which enables you to get things cheaper, so it would be worth keeping an eye on. I would actually recommend that you not bother with the first one if you are going to play Warband, as it is in essence the same game.
I am also excited to hear that they have begun production on Mount and Blade II, so I will be watching out for that with interest.